This week, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, issued an extensive report on for-profit colleges and universities, which included the University of Phoenix. It was the culmination of a two-year review by the senator and his staff.
While we appreciate the acknowledgment that our university has “an important role to play,” the report simply did not provide an accurate picture of the University of Phoenix or our dedicated students. I don’t pretend to speak for the whole for-profit college sector, but I am convinced that the public deserves the facts about our university and the million students and alumni that are part of our community.
University of Phoenix leads in many areas of higher education, by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our students’ learning platforms.
Many of the learning mechanisms developed by the University of Phoenix — including online learning, e-textbooks, collaborative learning teams, adaptive learning and expert faculty practitioners — are now being adopted broadly by higher education at large.
Given this expertise, at the University of Phoenix, the completion of our students’ degree programs is a top priority. That’s why we provide quality, flexible, rigorous and relevant education.
The mandatory university orientation program at University of Phoenix serves as an introduction to the higher learning atmosphere for less experienced students while providing them understanding of the commitment necessary to complete our degree programs — all before they enroll and before they take on debt.
And that investment doesn’t stop after students graduate. Our career services help students prepare for job interviews but — equally important — provides job opportunities at major U.S. companies. These are firms that understand the considerable abilities University of Phoenix students have gained.
Addressing another area of the report, our record with veterans is second to none.
This year alone, 11,000 active duty soldiers, veterans and their family members graduated with a degree. This shows how we successfully provide a quality and accredited education to our nation’s military. That includes leading efforts with Congress and the White House to enhance protections for those in the armed forces. And that is why we actively support bipartisan, common sense reforms that apply to all schools and have joined with veterans’ service organizations to outline specific reforms that protect military students.
Let’s be clear: Most of the students we serve at the University of Phoenix are “non-traditional.” They are working parents, returning military service personnel and first-generation learners who need the freedom to fulfill other responsibilities while earning degrees.
These are a growing proportion of the learners in the United States. Seventy percent of America’s students are classified as “non-traditional,” meaning that a conventional, residential four-year college experience will not work for them.
So when you take all this into account, the biggest shortcoming of this report is that it fails to recognize the intrinsic value of our institution: a value that is not only helping students right now, but that points towards a brighter future for American higher education.
MARK BRENNER is senior vice president of external affairs for Apollo Group Inc., which owns the University of Phoenix. Contact: learnmore@ phoenix.edu